The original feature can be viewed here, but with the magic of Google Translate, here’s the English transcript…complete with the questions asked and answered by Jim. Enjoy!
Simple Minds is not only current with its eighteenth full-length Walk Between Worlds. They also celebrate the impressive forty years in the industry. Zero had a long and interesting conversation with Jim Kerr, where everything from Swedish football legends to energetic eighties hit was discussed. As the dot of “in” we also let four Scandinavian musicians ask each other for their old idol.
Tempus fugit – time flies “. These words of wisdom from the Roman national scale Vergilius can not be contested. It is now forty-one years since the calendar showed in 1978.
1978 was the year when a peace agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt, the year when the world’s first test tube child saw the light of the day and the year in which Ingemar Stenmark won double World Cup medals in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
1978 was also the year when music history began to be written in Scottish Glasgow. The punk group Johnny & The Self Abusers, with both childhood friends Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill in the lead, underwent a few member changes, changed the set and took a new name from a stunts in the David Bowie song “The Jean Genie” (he’s so simple- minded, he can not drive his module …). The following year, they released their debut album, Life in a Day, and “the rest is history”, which so freakishly is hot.
“The idea that Simple Minds has been on for four decades is truly breathtaking,” recognizes Jim Kerr with a laugh when Zero calls him. But we try not to think too much about it. Instead, we do our best to live in the present. We try to make as curious and hungry as possible, make discs that we can be proud of and constantly look forward to.
Simple Minds recently released its eighteenth full-length Walk Between Worlds. According to the motto “Quality goes in front of quantity”, the album has only eight songs and tickes in the forty forty minutes.
“When the CD went through, it became popular to make really long albums. The discs would like to contain sixteen songs and be more than an hour long. Sure it’s nice to be generous to listeners, but the problem is that nobody can make such long slices that are good right through. Not even David Bowie, Kraftwerk or Prince. There are always transport stretches and tracks that you just skip. I prefer the classic, concise vinyl format. So Walk Between Worlds has four songs on “every page”. All the songs are strong in themselves, while forming an interesting whole together.
Friends of Simple Minds early eighties can rejoice in picking up the synthesizers seriously again. At least in a couple of songs. Both “Summer” and “The Signal and the Noise” could well have been forgotten recordings from the time around Sons and Fascination.
“My band mate Charlie Burchill is very fond of visiting specialty stores and buying used instruments while on tour, Jim says. He is always in search of “bargain” and in recent years he has accumulated many old analog syntheses. So I was not particularly surprised when he sent me demos that had an eighties inspired new wave feel. However, we did not decide to “make a retro disc”. It’s not our thing. The past is the past. But it was quite natural to go back to an electronic sound in some songs.
Another song that stands out on Walk Between Worlds is “Utopia”, which almost hoveres with its suggestive atmosphere and warm refrain.
“Utopia” is definitely one of my personal favorites on the album, Jim points out. It’s about what the music meant to me. How it turned into magic places, to “utopian resorts”, where I felt happy and able to gather new energy. The text lines “body trembled, needle fell” are not about drugs, but about the amazing feeling when a pickup pin hits a vinyl disc. It hurts and you get the breath full of expectation. It’s almost a religious experience. Many have said that “Utopia” reminiscent of something from Roxy Musics Avalon album, which is both flattering and thematic, because Avalon is also a magical and mythical place …
Over the past month, Simple Minds has been on the European Tour, where they offered a balanced mix between old and new.
“We’ve played a lot from Walk Between Worlds, which feels like one of our most appreciated discs for a long time, but also ran older favorites like” In Travel “and” Celebrate “. Of course, it has also become a couple of eighties in new vintage.
In most major band catalogs there is a song that can either be described as “a classic” or as “completely fragmented”. A song that the band members themselves are really tired of, while knowing that it has the potential to lift any concert. It may be a “Just Can’t Get Enough”, a “Don’t You Want Me”, a “Sunday Bloody Sunday” … or if it’s called Simple Minds a “Don’t You”.
“That song really changed everything,” Jim reveals. From having previously played at regular clubs, we suddenly began to be booked to big venues. From having lived quite an anonymous life, we suddenly began to be recognized everywhere. However, the successes had a backside. The song became almost bigger than the band. Even today, I often hear “Yes, Simple Minds, You Well, Who Made It” Don’t You (Forget About Me) “. Then it seems tempting to answer: “Certainly, we did it … and a hundred other, much better songs”, but I usually bite myself in the hand instead, haha. No, seriously, we have actually been reconciled with “Don’t You”. There was a period when we did not want to know it, but now it’s actually fun to connect with a song and a movie that has meant so much to so many.
However, it was not obvious that Simple Minds would get “Don’t You” and that it would be a megahit. Jim tells about the story behind the song.
“Our record company wanted us to stay up to date and suggested that we join a soundtrack for an American youth movie. We liked both the idea and what the movie Breakfast Club was for. On the other hand, we were not as fond of recording a song as someone else had written. Especially not one that rumors that both Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol had rejected no. When we heard the demo of “Don’t You” we were honestly not particularly impressed. But after all, there was something special about the song. However, it needed a real Simple Minds touch to make us feel comfortable with it. So we wrote a new intro, made the song miserable and “popped up” it by adding “hey, hey, hey, hey”, “oooh” and “lalalala” in fitting places. We dreamed about going through the United States and saw no need to save the gun, haha.
Jim and his man met in the dot. “Don’t You” became one of the best-selling singles in 1985 and the subsequent Once Upon a Time hit an impressive tenth place on the US list. Among the band’s early fans, however, it was complained about the radio-friendly and more mainstream-sounded sound.
“I understand that those who discovered us through Empires and Dance felt confused or alienated by our more commercial eighties discs, philosophizing Jim. I respect that they thought “Hang on a minute, this is not my thing anymore …”. But for us it was a matter of course to test new stuff. In our tour bus we used to play mix bands where we turned Kraftwerk and Blondie with Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross. With that in mind, it may not be weird that our own discs also went in all directions. How can I explain it? A cook does not just want to cook the same right year out and year in. An author does not just want to write the same kind of books all the time. For us, who love music, it was very important to face new challenges. Sometimes people have asked me about Simple Minds’s postpunk, electropop, stadium rock or celtic pop. “We are all that and much more”, I usually answer. A band, like a human being, may have multiple pages? It’s all about feeling and for me, both Empires and Dance and Street Fighting Years have that special Simple Minds feeling we sought.
After a few years as one of the world’s biggest bands, however, there was gravel in the machinery and Simple Minds ended up in a vicious circle. In the 1990s the production rate was lowered, while the discs sounded more streamlined and sold all the worse.
“The problem was that Simple Minds had become an industry,” said Jim. The creative bite often ended up in other places, and many of those discs became too bland and market-adapted. I regret it? Certainly, we had done a lot of different things. But then we thought we did everything right. We dreamed of becoming a big band and we became a really big band. But the medal turned out to have a back. We lost ourselves on the way. Thus, not saying that it was completely lost years. A couple of songs from the period like “Real Life” and “Hypnotised” I think a lot about and we still play them live.
In 1999, Simple Minds reached a bottom position. They had problems with their record company, their planned disc leaked on the Internet and the air went out of them completely. When Jim and his band colleagues did not see any way forward, they decided to take a break indefinitely.
“The years between forty and fifty can be a heavy phase in life. It’s a period when you realize that you start aging and pondering a lot. I was suffering from a depression around the turn of the century and questioned my career. Maybe it was time to do something else? So I completely stopped the music, moved to Sicily and started a hotel instead. This could well have been the end of Simple Minds, but after a while I learned to know some local amateur musicians on the island. I watched one of their concerts and was touched by their fun of joy. It made me remember how fun we had when we started Simple Minds once in a while. A few weeks later, the hobby band asked if I wanted to go and have a night. I was initially doubtful, but decided to keep up with it. On that road I found back to the music again. I will always be endlessly grateful to the guys in Sicily for that …
The past decade in Simple Mind’s history has been the brighter. Both last full lengths, Graffiti Soul and Big Music, have both received good criticism and achieved honorable placements on the sales lists. Very well, Jim is very pleased with where the band is now.
“When you are young, you think everything is about inspiration. Nowadays, I know that hard work is counting in the end. Of course, I am proud of all the successes we have had. But I’m more proud that we’ve survived. As the wise Neil Young once said, “It doesn’t count so much what you do when you’re young. It’s when you’re older and you’ve been beaten up, and you’re full of doubt and you don’t have the same energy… it’s what you do then that really counts.” Just so. We have fought us through many adversities. We have learned what is important and what really matters. Now I try to make as much fun as possible and make the most of every record recording or concert.
Of course, it is also a plus that Simple Minds can now enjoy a cult status on the music scene. Jim tells us that a number of younger colleagues have sought him up and showed his appreciation.
– Billy from Smashing Pumpkins, Damon from Blur and Thom from Radiohead have all come up on various occasions and told how much Simple Minds has meant them. It felt very nice and flattering! A few years ago, I also took a beer with James Dean Bradfield, the singer of Manic Street Preachers, who told us that Empires and Dance is one of his favorite albums. My children, who are great Manics fans, were really impressed. They did not think that any cool person could actually like Simple Minds, haha.
During his long career, Jim has met with interesting cultural personalities. However, nothing strikes what he experienced in a small studio north of Cardiff 1979.
“We were in Rockfield Studios in the countryside of Wales and worked with our second album, Real to Real Cacophony. Reputation had heard that Iggy Pop would be there at the same time. He would have the big studio and we the little one. We hoped to run on him in the garden, but of course he did not like it. But one evening it knocked on our studio door. It was Iggy and a couple of his companions who wanted to say “hello”. We were first overwhelmed, but Iggy was both cool and friendly, so we managed to relax and get the most out of the visit. Iggy asked if we might want to help with background songs on one of his songs. “My friend David will also be with,” he mentioned in passing. So we watched over to Iggy’s studio the following night. There David Bowie and Iggy Pop waited for us. It was a completely surreal moment for me, a twenty-year-old guy who had grown up with Bowie’s and Iggy’s music and regarded them as gods. Bowie suggested that I should sit between him and Iggy and sing in the same microphone as them. “Oh … okay”. Then we recorded “Play it Safe” that ended up on Iggy’s Soldier album. If our names were not on the cover, I thought I was dreaming all the way …
In addition to his major cultural interest, Jim is also a giant football fan. The favorite team, for which he has invested a lot of time and money, is of course Celtic F.C. It is therefore unbelievable that he has a lot to say about a terrestrial man from Helsingborg, who during his time in the white-green shirt became known as a notorious goalkeeper.
– There is only one way to describe Henrik Larsson: a real class act. The guy was fantastic at the football field. He gave the Celtic fans so much joy. It was a sad day when he left Scotland. I am very welcome to Sweden and to some extent, it is probably Henrik Larsson’s profit, haha.
As cream on the mash, Zero also gave four Scandinavian electropoppers the opportunity to ask each other to Jim Kerr. The result was as follows:
That last sentence was translated from English…
You don’t get many periods in your life when it all goes your way…